From the Ground-Up: Opportunities for Mechanical Apple Harvesting

Speaker: Dr. Gregory Peck, Joe Gaynor

Date & Time: Friday, February 3, 2:00-3:15pm

In this presentation, Dr. Gregory Peck will discuss the use of mechanical harvesters for cider apple orchards. Apple harvesting labor is typically the largest single annual operating expense for an orchard, costing as much as $2,983/acre. Economic case studies for six orchard operations located in NY found that management strategies that afford greater efficiencies are a key to cider apple orchard profitability. Additionally, Cornell recently developed partial budget models that compared purchasing and using harvesting equipment to hand harvesting labor costs for small- (5 acre), medium- (15 acre), and large-scale (60 acre) apple orchards. We found that utilizing mechanical harvesting machinery across all three orchard size models was more profitable than hand harvesting. In Europe, which has a long-standing cider industry, cider apples are almost exclusively harvested mechanically from the ground. A diversity of apple harvesters are currently available from European manufacturers allowing cider apple producers to identify machinery that matches their operation scale. Because of the large number of relatively small to medium scale cider orchards in the U.S., growers could also cooperatively purchase a harvester, and, like the UK cider industry and U.S. grape industry, there is an opportunity for contract harvest businesses. Finally, Dr. Peck will show videos of their recent trials with mechanical harvesting in a high-density cider apple orchard. Joe Gaynor from Angry Orchard will be available during this session to share his experience with mechanical harvesting and to address questions from the perspective of an apple grower and cider producer.